Employees might think of teamwork as collaboration on a project or a chance to participate in shared decision-making. They might get excited to work on a team if they've been on successful teams in the past, or they might dread hearing that teamwork will be required if they've had bad team experiences. Try a team approach with your business if you are sure everyone will participate and perform a fair share of the work. It's best to select a teamwork example that fits the personalities on your team or use a model you can teach them.
Some small businesses have employees telecommuting to work or dispersed over a large local region. Employees may interact when visiting the main office, but it's hard to get them to collaborate as a team. If distance is a problem, visit every employee at his work site and discuss the teamwork initiative. Alternatively, you can require all employees to attend a meeting at the home office to discuss your initiative. Challenge employees to share information regardless of their geographic location. Use an intranet, private social media page or other technology solution to help team members keep in touch and share encouragement such as what helped them make a sale or successfully complete a job.
To help hold all team members accountable, assign specific roles. Consider using a survey that encourages employees to rate their work preferences in several categories. Review and score the surveys to determine each employee's preferred role in a group. For example, employees might like to be researchers or organizers. Other roles could include recorder, timekeeper, optimist, skeptic, implementer or coordinator, depending on your needs. After you have determined each person's preferred role, you can build diverse teams; each team should include at least one person of each role preference.
Another teamwork example involves getting the team out of the workplace. You can plan a retreat off-site in which you bring together members from all areas of the company, regardless of their job title. When you solicit ideas from all levels of personnel, your employees feel there's a chance to help you set the direction of the business, which gives them a personal stake in the process and a higher level of engagement. Use team-building activities such as retreats to increase engagement and build a team atmosphere in the company.
In his book "Management," business expert Peter F. Drucker describes teamwork using the example of a doubles team with players who each have a primary position, not a fixed position. The advantage of building such a team is that one employee can cover for another. For example, you might have an office associate and a counter salesperson on staff. Cross-train these two employees to cover both positions and perform as a doubles team, compensating for each other's strengths and weaknesses in changing business conditions. Each employee needs to know the most important tasks for her counterpart's position. Cross-training employees gives you flexibility in covering lunch breaks, vacations and other business needs.